How to Look After Your Mental Health

by Anita Naik

Lockdown, new tiers, two-week quarantines, online lessons, mock exams and now rapid testing in schools from 2021, it's all likely to have taken it's a toll on you this year. Just some reasons why looking after your mental health matters more than ever right now.

A growing body of evidence suggests that COVID-19 has had an enormous impact on the mental health and wellbeing of young people. Research by the Scottish Youth Parliament and YouthLink Scotland has shown that around two fifths (39%) of children and young people aged 11-25 felt moderately or extremely concerned about their mental wellbeing. And a recent survey from Young Minds showed that 80% of young people with an existing mental health problem felt their mental health had worsened.

Maintaining good mental health not only helps you reduce feelings of anxiety or anger, but it also helps improve your overall confidence and resilience. This, in turn, allows you to live and work to your best abilities in stressful times. Here's how to do it.

Have a routine

The changes Covid-19 has bought in have dramatically altered everyday routines, which in turn made it harder to cope with the stress, which is why it's vital to have a daily routine. Implementing a structure to your day can give you a sense of control. It can also improve your focus, organisation, and productivity.

Though a routine is also about more than just your day-to-day responsibilities — don't forget to make time to look after your health and happiness, from taking time to exercise - either outdoors or a YouTube fitness programme. Having regular sleep and waking patterns, eating well and keeping in contact with the people you live with, and virtual contact with friends and family.

All of this will help you to feel happier, more motivated and able to cope with everything from revision to mindset.

Talk about it

It's not easy to focus on exams and work in a positive way when you don't know if schools will be open or how exams will happen.

The uncertainty can lead to more stress and anxiety around revision and plans; this is why it's vital to talk about how you are feeling to friends, family, teachers and anyone you trust.

Talking may not solve anything, but it will lessen the stress you are carrying and enable you to feel that others understand your situation.

Find healthy coping mechanisms

Coping mechanisms are the ways we choose to cope with stress, anxiety and challenges. These can be avoidance mechanisms like - pretending everything is okay, immersing yourself in something distracting like gaming or sleeping too much and retreating from the world.

Inevitably, these unhealthy mechanisms bring problems of their own and tend to exacerbate stress and feelings of negativity.

To help yourself find something that works for you. An excellent coping mechanism can be something as simple as going for a walk with friends, listening to music, spending time with someone you love, meditating, socialising with friends online or immersing yourself in a new hobby.

Become informed

Information is always power when it comes to looking after your mental health. For instance, understanding why you are feeling the way you do and knowing what to do when you feel demotivated and anxious is vital in looking after yourself.

Anxiety, for example, is a mental and physical reaction to perceived threats. For instance, you may be worried about failing your exams, not revising enough, your exams being changed and future plans. All these things are normal worries, but the anxiety becomes a problem when you find you are in a constant heightened state of worry and fear that stops you from enjoying your life. What can help here are several measures from learning to live in the present (mindfulness) to talking about your fears, to actively challenging what you say to yourself.

For further help

MIND has a variety of support and information on everything from anxiety and depression.

Student Minds is the UK's student mental health charity, empowering students and members of the university community to look after their mental health.

Crisis Text Line Support Text SHOUT to 85258 in the UK to text with a trained Crisis volunteer.